Risks during a heatwave
In a severe heatwave, you may get dehydrated and your body may overheat. This can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which both need urgent treatment. Heatstroke can cause serious damage to your body or even death.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle weakness or cramps
- pale skin
- high temperature
If you think you have heat exhaustion, you should move somewhere cool and drink plenty of water. If you can, take a lukewarm shower or sponge yourself down with cold water.
If heat exhaustion is untreated, you could develop heatstroke. Heatstroke can also occur suddenly and without any warning.
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- intense thirst
- hot, red and dry skin
- a sudden rise in temperature
- loss of consciousness
If you have these symptoms during a heatwave, rest for a few hours, keep cool and drink water. If the symptoms don’t go away or get worse, seek medical advice.
People at risk during hot weather
Heat can affect anyone, but some people are at greater risk of serious harm from the effects of extreme heat. These include:
- older people
- babies and young children
- people with mental health problems
- people on certain types of medication – ask your doctor if you are at risk
- people with a chronic health condition such as breathing or heart problems
- people who already have a high temperature from an infection
- people who consume alcohol or use illegal drugs
- people with mobility problems
- people who are physically active such as manual workers or sportspeople
If anyone you know is likely to be at risk during a heatwave, help them to get the advice and support they need. Older people living on their own should be visited daily to check they are well.
What you should do
You can take steps to protect yourself and others from the effects of very hot weather.
Keep out of the heat
- if a heatwave is forecast, plan your day so that you can stay out of the heat when possible
- avoid going out during the hottest part of the day between 11.00 am to 3.00 pm
- avoid strenuous outdoor activity such as sport or gardening or do this during cooler times of the day
- if you must go out, stay in the shade and wear a hat and loose-fitting cotton clothes
- if you are outside, take plenty of water with you
- don't leave babies or children alone in a parked car
- stay inside in the coolest rooms in your home
- close the curtains in rooms that get a lot of sun
- keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside and open them when the temperature inside rises – if you are worried about security, open windows on the first floor and above
- take cool showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, especially your face and the back of your neck
- drink regularly even if you do not feel thirsty – water or fruit juice are best
- try to avoid alcohol, tea and coffee as these can cause dehydration
- eat as you normally would, especially cold food such as salads and fruit
- Protection from the sun
Call an ambulance if you need to
Heatstroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly and may lead very quickly to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 999 immediately.
While waiting for the ambulance:
- move the person somewhere cooler if possible
- increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan
- cool them down as quickly as possible by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet
- if they are conscious, give them water to drink
- don't give them aspirin or paracetamol